- Published on Tuesday, 15 November 2011
- Written by phinea
The Church of Scotland is braced for mass resignations over moves to allow the ordination of gay ministers. The Guardian has reported that up to 150 conservative and evangelical ministers are threatening to quit.
The rebellion began in May 2009 when the Church of Scotland became the first major Presbyterian church in the world to allow gay and lesbian ministers who had previously declared their sexuality to take up parishes.
This sounds good, but note that, in a theological knot that only a good Christian church can create, this only applied to people who had already declared their sexuality; serving gay ministers who declared their sexuality after 2009 were not allowed to take on new parishes! They then decided it was all too difficult and set up a theological commission to report on the full ordination of gay ministers in 2013. Hmm…it’s as if they want to discourage more gay ministers from coming out. Maybe they hope the whole thing will go away before the commission reports.
If 150 ministers do quit in protest at this compromise, it will be the largest schism in the church since 474 ministers left in 1843 to form the Free Church of Scotland or ‘Wee Frees’ over state encroachment on the spiritual independence of the church. Plus ca change, eh?
However, a spokesman for the Church of Scotland denied that so many ministers were threatening to leave and urged critics of gay ordination to wait until the commission reported in 2013.
At least six ministers have left since the assembly in May, with one minister and his entire congregation at Gilcomston South in Aberdeen poised to leave as a group, in the first large-scale protest.
One obstacle to mass departures is that ministers who resign loses their home, income and future pension payments. Congregations would lose their church and its buildings.
Critics of this strict ruling are thought to be planning to contest it in May at the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, in a bid to give rebellious ministers greater protection.
The Rev Peter Johnston, of the liberal One Kirk group which supports gay ordination, said he believed some rebels were threatening to leave simply to put pressure on the church, but hoped most critics wanted to keep talking about a harmonious solution.
The general assembly's decision "does leave them in an awkward position", he said. "I can grasp that but the majority of folk in the Church of Scotland want to see what the theological commission comes back with. From our perspective, we're still trying to keep dialogue open with all people."
A Church of Scotland spokesman added: "It is disappointing that any ministers or members feel the need to leave the church before the commission reports.
"We stress that no final decisions have been taken, and the church is currently holding more dialogue on this issue.
"Only five ministers have indicated their intention to demit charge citing this issue. So far only one has actually left.
"There is no evidence to support the claim that significant numbers of ministers are preparing to leave.
"In keeping with our traditions, everyone continues to work for the peace and unity of the Church of Scotland."
Sounds like they're hoping for a miracle.